After a perfect 3-0 and road trip that pushed the current win streak to four games, the Carolina Hurricanes return home to play the Philadelphia Flyers.
The game sets up as a perfect trap game in the first game back home and against an opponent that is lower in the standings. But the Flyers are a good hockey team early in the 2019-20 and very much pushing for the playoffs just like the Hurricanes. Carter Hart seems to be coming of age. The team still has a small collection of great core veterans and leaders. And the youth is starting to emerge. The result is a team that sits right at the playoff cut line with the potential to go either way.
For the Hurricanes, this game is about not doing the exhale/pause that leads to a disappointing loss and the game is about building on Tuesday’s game in Chicago. Things got a bit dicey at the end when the Blackhawks surged late, but otherwise the game was by far the cleanest of the recent wings.
Another thing worth noting is that the Hurricanes are doing everything in their power to prop up the division having lost five straight games to Metropolitan Division opponents who are below them in the standings. Thursday is a good time to end that bad streak.
My watch points follow.
‘What I’m watching’ for the Carolina Hurricanes versus the Philadelphia Flyers
1) Intensity out of the gate
As noted above, if this turns out to be a pause and exhale game after a successful road trip, the probability of winning plummets. I will be watching out of the gate to see if the team can muster the appropriate level of intensity. I really like Jordan Martinook being back in the lineup for this. I think he and Micheal Ferland were the two players in 2018-19 who most sensed when the team needed to crank the dial and helped the bench do so. So right from the opening face-off I will be looking for pace, physicality and intensity.
2) Continuation of cleaner game
Especially through two periods on Tuesday, the Hurricanes were leaps and bounds better in terms of not giving up odd man rushes and not having coverage break downs in the defensive zone. On Thursday, I will be watching to see if that was a one-game blip or hopefully the start of a trend.
The trio has produced of late, but increasingly it feels like they are on brink of a more sizable break out on the score sheet. Could that start at home and carry the team through through the rest of November?
4) Rising up
The newly-minted line of Niederreiter/Wallmark/Necas showed a spark. Staal’s line was especially good on Saturday in Minnesota. Which of these rising lines can string together a run of great games?
The puck drops at 7:07pm on Fox Sports Carolinas.